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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Beyond the Bake Sale: Parents Can Make the Difference in Countless Ways

Beyond the Bake Sale: Parents Can Make the Difference in Countless Ways

Curriculum Center Everybody wins when parents volunteer ! Kevin Walker, the founder of Project Appleseed, a nonprofit organization, is helping schools involve parents. The organization has created a list of 37 different ways parents can help and is on its way to recruiting 5 million parent volunteers nationwide. Included: The Project Appleseed Parental Involvement Pledge.
PARENTS WANTED: Openings for volunteers at all schools. Many opportunities are available. Compensation: Countless rewards, including enhanced dialogue between parents and teachers, improved student behavior, and greater student commitment to academic achievement. All parents please apply.
Kevin Walker, a parent of four school-aged children and a former presidential campaign organizer from St. Louis, Missouri, has always been active in his children's schools. He has continued to volunteer at a neighborhood elementary school after his youngest child moved up to the middle school. Walker knows first-hand the difference a volunteer can make.

The Parental Involvement Pledge

AS A PARENT, GRANDPARENT, OR CARING ADULT, I hereby give my pledge of commitment to help our community's children achieve a truly independent future. My declaration of responsibility and commitment to my public schools is stated in these five self-evident truths as spoken by President Woodrow Wilson: * As parents, we are the owners of the public school system.
* As owners, we bear a responsibility to participate in the system.
* Accountability for our public schools, their safety, their employees, and their funding rests with us and the rest of the system's owners.
* Our children's future depends on the improvement of the public schools.
* This improvement depends on our participation.
THEREFORE, AS A PARENT, GRANDPARENT, OR CARING ADULT, I take personal responsibility for my child's safety and education and the safety and education of the children in this community.
I pledge to volunteer a minimum of five hours of my time to my public schools each semester. I pledge to spend a minimum of 15 minutes each school night reading with my child, or we will work together on homework and enrichment activity.
Walker's insight isn't new: Many studies herald parental involvement as an essential element of successful schools. When parents work with their children's schools, teachers have more support, and children learn by example that education matters! In 1991, Walker combined his commitment to parent-school volunteerism with his professional campaign experience to create Project Appleseed, a nonprofit organization. The organization helps schools and parents promote parent volunteerism by distributing the Parental Involvement Pledge (See sidebar.), parent self-assessment evaluations, and a list of 37 volunteer opportunities at schools.


The pledge really works, Walker maintains. At first, he thought it was a little hokey. The success of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) convinced him, though. If it worked for MADD, Walker thought, it might work for schools too.
The reason the pledge has been effective is that parents have a variety of ways to help at school. Many parents say they are too busy to sit through meetings, so they don't volunteer because they don't want to commit to joining a school organization, Walker explained.
"The use of the pledge removes the barrier to parent involvement," Walker said. Schools can purchase a parental involvement tool kit from Project Appleseed or download the pledge from the Web site. Some schools use the Project Appleseed pledge, and others use it to help create their own school pledges.
Walker credits this approach for being particularly effective in many economically disadvantaged school districts. Some parents may feel they have nothing to offer or feel intimidated by the school. There is something for everybody on the long list of ways parents can help out at their children's school. Some activities Walker suggests parents could volunteer for at school include the following:


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